Whilst the entire airline industry was publicly expressing its sadness at the collapse of Thomas Cook last week, the truth is that the failure of the airline division opens up a lot of new opportunities.
In regional short-haul, Ryanair, Jet2 and easyJet will be keen to pick up the additional business.
At London Gatwick, British Airways has already said that it will be bidding for the Thomas Cook slots. I would also expect Virgin Atlantic to be interested.
The real opportunity for Virgin Atlantic, however, is at Manchester.
There was, amongst Virgin Atlantic staff, a feeling that Manchester was only big enough for one long-haul hub carrier. With Thomas Cook out of the picture, and neither British Airways or Norwegian looking suitable candidates to buy the long-haul slots, Virgin Atlantic is looking in good shape to capitalise.
This was Thomas Cook’s long-haul network in Summer 2019:
- Cancun – Glasgow, Gatwick, Manchester
- Cayo Coco (Cuba) – Gatwick, Manchester
- Holguin – Gatwick, Manchester
- Las Vegas – Manchester
- Los Angeles – Manchester
- Montego Bay – Manchester
- New York JFK – Manchester
- Orlando – Glasgow, Gatwick, Manchester
- Punta Cana – Manchester
- San Francisco – Manchester
- Seattle – Manchester
- Varadero – Manchester
As you can see, there is a lot of potential here for Virgin Atlantic to pick up additional routes from Manchester. The snag is that only 38% of Thomas Cook flights were sold as ‘seat only’ – the rest were sold as packages, mainly via Thomas Cook itself, and that business may well be gone forever unless Virgin Holidays ramps up its operations considerably.
Back to that new Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse in Manchester …..
The point of the discussion above was to allow you to set the Virgin Atlantic announcement on Friday in context.
This is what the airline promised:
Allocating a Boeing 747 to the majority of Manchester to New York JFK flights, leading to a substantial increase in seating capacity
Adding a 3rd weekly service to Barbados for the Winter 2019 season
Announcing the long planned opening of a Clubhouse in the new pier at Manchester Terminal 2 (image above), which is due to open in “Spring 2020”
Refurbishing the Virgin Atlantic V-Room, the lounge used by Virgin Holidays customers
There was also, for Gatwick customers, the announcement of two additional weekly flights to Barbados this Winter, taking the total to nine.
We don’t know much about the new Clubhouse except:
“In order to provide an unrivalled travel experience, Virgin Atlantic will bring its iconic Clubhouse lounge to Manchester for the first time from Spring 2020. Upper Class customers and Gold Card members can take advantage of the exclusive space before their flight, which will include a la carte dinning and a full service bar, quiet working spaces and a spa, allowing passengers to relax and rejuvenate before they depart.”
Given how appalling all of the existing lounges are at Manchester Terminal 2, this will be a massive improvement for Virgin’s Upper Class customers. I am keen to take a look next Spring.
Looking forward, this statement is clearly a response to the demise of Thomas Cook:
“The airline is now reviewing options to add further flights and new destinations to its Winter 2019 / Summer 2020 schedule. A greater number of flights from both Gatwick and Manchester to Orlando will come into effect during peak travel periods, with further details to be announced shortly.”
Seats for the new Manchester/Gatwick to Barbados services will go on sale tomorrow, although I do not yet know what dates they are operating. It may be an opportunity to pick up a Winter break to Barbados with your Virgin Flying Club miles ……
How to earn Virgin Atlantic miles from UK credit cards
As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Virgin Flying Club miles from UK credit cards. Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses!
Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Virgin Flying Club miles. That page is regularly updated with the latest special offers and will still be accurate even if you are reading this article months after publication.
(Want to earn more Virgin Flying Club miles? Click here to see our recent articles on Virgin Atlantic and Flying Club and click here for our home page with the latest news on earning and spending other airline and hotel points.)